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The MacGuffin

In writing and film, a MacGuffin is a plot device that gives the characters a catalyst for action. It can be an object to quest after or a nebulous concept, but it makes them go. It’s like my gorse bush.

Right now what’s making me go is my writing. I feel good about my story and the people who have so graciously volunteered to help me edit my monstrosity of a manuscript and prepare it for submission. I’m coming to the end of draft two, and I’m excited to get it going with the polishing round.

Writing has been a dream of mine for so long, and now that I have a completed novel and another one almost done, I feel like I can move forward. It’s the career I want. I’ve been pretty deliberate about my steps, trying to make sure that I put the effort in on the front end to save some time and heartache later. I don’t know what to expect once my work starts spiraling around the ether, but we shall see.

That’s my MacGuffin right now. The wedding is in two weeks, and I’m starting a life with my fiance. We’re both the classic broke twenty-somethings. We’re both creative types. The driving force for me is getting my writing out there, because at the end of the day, I write for an audience. I want others to read my work.

The past month has been very busy. I’ve been writing in every spare minute. Sometimes in those minutes I can’t actually spare. I’ve been blogging and building, tweeting and grinding my teeth. I’m painstakingly digging a foundation for a career I hope will encompass my life. I want to show agents that I’m worth the risk of taking on a new author. That I’ll make us both money doing what we love: producing new books for people to cuddle up to.

A lot of the past month has been borne with frustration that I have to work fifty hours a week at another job. That’s fifty hours I can’t spend writing and honing my craft. That’s why I want to make writing my career — so that I can focus on getting better, push myself to creating more vivid language, sharper imagery, characters people long to read over and over again.

I remember how I felt when I discovered that by Jo Rowling’s timeline, Harry wouldn’t be the age of Dan Radcliffe — he’d be my age. That all of this took place parallel to my generation. It made it so much more powerful to me to think that Harry was my peer. I will love those books forever. I will never duplicate the Harry Potter phenomenon — nor do I want to — but I want to make that connection to readers. Make a place in their hearts where my characters will live as their friends.

The dream is there. The drive is there. The will and determination are there. Even with the wedding coming up a mere two weeks from now, writing is the pulse of my life.

Perhaps this entry belongs more on my other blog, but perhaps not. It applies to my life. It’s a shift that has occurred subtly over the past few years, and it’s starting to materialize. I’ve gone from sheer terror to hopelessness to confidence to resolve when it comes to my career — now that resolve is moving my feet forward into a new world.

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fumbling toward ecstasy

i stretch, feeling the tug of my muscles, a pleasurable ache remaining.  it’s a reminder of how much has changed this year.  2009, it seems, is setting out to prove that spring of 2008 was a crucible — the smoldering coals i had to walk over to feel the cool wet grass under my feet.

the first crickets sing outside my window, their tunes riding on the fresh breeze of the evening.  my breath is measured, even.  my fingers and hands are warm as i type, the muted light from the paper-covered lamp filling the room with a soft glow.  and here i am.

something leaps in my chest when that thought enters my mind.  the breath in my lungs hitches for a moment, and my heart quickens.  here i am.

the air is cool, and the sun has begun its downward path, setting the budding trees and leafy bushes to dusty gold.  i am alone on the greenway path.  for once, no passers-by break the silence with their footsteps and words.  no joggers with ipods, no walkers with dogs and leashes.  just me.  i pause at the first curve, looking out over the field.  a smile tugs at my lips — something that is happening more and more lately.  a few puffy dandelions grow in the grass.  on impulse, i step off the path and pluck one from its resting place.

there’s a difference in the air this year.  a softer note in the sound of the wind.  as i let my mind drift over the events of last spring, it touches on snapshots.  my heart stopping as i read a one-line email from my cousin matt.  “please give me a call the first chance you get.”  dark brown eyes under a shock of shaggy black hair, darting nervously as my boss informs me my hours have been cut by 40%.  coming home again to find my roommate doesn’t have the rent money or the bills at all.  mocking words.  maniacal howling from the other side of my apartment.  walking into my bedroom and feeling someone else’s uninvited presence.  things missing.  weariness.  driving.  driving.  mansions and mansions filled with people, hard faces.  suspicious glances.  smiling children and dilapidated buildings playing among cut gravel and broken glass.  a boy’s florid bow as he moves aside to let my car pass.  spanish filters through my open window from neighbors laughing on lawn chairs, easy banter on a summer evening as my car moves through their world.  the quiet of the office, eight hours of nothing.  from sprawling villas to shoebox dwellings — an invisible line is crossed, and i drive into another world.  the rocky mountains in the distance.  tired.  always tired.  six o’clock i drive to work in the morning sun.  eight hours of nothing.  the sun sets as i drive, the numbers on my meter move, move.  hours and hours.  at midnight, i drive home.  i fall into bed.  i sleep.  six o’clock comes too soon.  tears.  the harsh scent of vodka.  the sharp sting of lies.  snapshots — just snapshots — that world is no more.

mom always used to tell me not to spread the dandelion seeds.  i pause as i lift the fluffy ball to my lips, my fingertips sticking lightly to the thin, moist stem.  for a moment i feel a gleeful rebellion as i purse my lips and blow.  tiny tufted dancers spin into space.  freed from their resting place, they float through the air.  one lodges itself between my breasts, perhaps afraid to take that step onto the current of the breeze.  i pluck it out and it soars away, trailing behind the cloud of others that flicker in the light of the afternoon sun.

last year’s world is no more.  only this year is real.  only now.  here i am.  again my heart quickens as i glance forward in time.  the clock seems to speed in its place on the wall.  soon and very soon.  no more running away.  this time i’m moving forward, grasping at newness, at vibrance.  everything about now tickles my awareness of the immediacy of the present.  the pull of my muscles as i stretch, the comfortable space in my clothing.  the smile that tugs at my lips.  newness.

i’m alone on the path.  i glance around, but no one is there.  my heart leaps in pleasure.  the creek burbles over rocks as i cross the bridge, the soft pat-pat of my flip-flops still audible over the water.  the path seems smoother, more even than i remember, even though i was there not long ago.  i feel the urge to run.  what happens is more of a scamper, borderline bounce.  my legs tense, my pulse jumps.  something in me sparkles.  without a thought, my shoes are off, left behind on the pavement.  i pad a few steps forward, then i’m running.

2009 is a new year.  i felt it with the ticking of the clock as december became january.  it’s new in every way.  the gentle ache in my muscles gives me a moment of triumph.  my body is newer, smoother, yes — slimmer.  i feel good.  i feel healthy, energetic.  when i look in the mirror, i grin.  i think of what i’ve done this year, in the months that have passed since the sorrow of last spring.  focus, determination.  effort.  i’ve fallen down, but there have been hands to help me up.  and here i sit.  i am ready.

i come to a halt where the path turns to grass.  i look out over the field beyond where it ends, see the rolling, tamed grass of the golf course and purposely turn the other way.  a small meadow is nestled in the crook of a curving slope.  a few insects flit across the path in the sun.  the breaths i take as i turn back toward home feel like a drug.  the smile wins, and i feel my face light up.  when i reach my shoes, i pick them up.  the plastic, warmed from the sun, dangles from my fingertips.  my arms swing at my sides, and i revel in the cool air that passes over my skin.  my earrings jingle as i walk silently on my bare feet.  right now, at this moment, i am utterly beautiful.

carbonation bubbles in my veins as a thrill passes through me.  my skin hums in anticipation.  soon.  an electric edge is on the air, seems to hover around me like an aura.  this time there is no trepidation, only certainty.  clear, crystalline certainty.

fumbling toward ecstasy

fumbling toward ecstasy

no running away this time.  no desperation, no stumbles and sobs.  only an abiding quietness and a tugging smile.  a sparkle, a glimmer.  raindrops patter on the ground outside, and a fresh-washed scent floats in on the evening breeze.  the crickets have been put on mute, gone for cover from the rain.  inside in the glow, the world is spread out before me.  i’m the tiny dandelion seed, and i’m finally ready to launch myself off that cliff, to take the plunge.  till then, i’ll smile to myself, i’ll keep these sweet secrets dancing at the corners of my lips.  till then, i’ll look out over the world spread before me.  till then, i’m her.  i am ready.

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oddity. shooting stars in february skies. eat with chopsticks, hear their sighs.

comfortable.  soft cushion milkweed tuft sheets and shirts and pillows.  quiet hums and electronic gurgles beyond the raindrop pat of keys.  thoughts ripple, curl and stretch.

a star fell thursday in the southern sky, a blazing trail that lingered frozen in time then slipped away like a pebble into a pool.

coolness of fabric on too-warm feet.  rushing air into lungs can’t fill it all before the end of a breath.  silk skin, wrists, hands.  bones and blanket.  all there, all remains.  warm satin haze.  night and stars, glimmer of orion’s belt outshines casseopeia’s throne.  no trail before them, simply stasis– they will shed light long past the bowman’s funeral pyre.

smile, laugh, mirrored eyes.  shifting, slanting, stay.

fork in the road–one path interstate, one path cul-de-sac.  spun round, blindfolded, pushed toward the break, but already a block’s been placed.

waiting, watching stars go by.  epmtpy places filled.  eyes pass and look but do not see.

hands itch for brush of heather-covered hills, toes dipped in peat-washed waters.  rare as diamonds, sun shining through drops of falling rain onto gorse and grass and oak.  rowans whisper in the grove.  pulse.  heart.  drum.  breeze embrace, leapt from the sea.

circling now, soft exhale.  waves and ocean colors shine but not far from sugared dreams of warmful wakings after cradled contented night. ceruleean nd ruby movings now wonder wander through.  deeper chord carries the path to rest.  curled in clouds and sweet caressing nest.   sleep beckons and tomorrow waits in the wings to follow  stars through the skies.  eat  with chopsticks, hear their sighs.

I want to wake up with the rain falling on a tin roof…

Maybe “roof” isn’t the right word, but I surely woke up to the rain.

It’s 5:45 AM.  I never see the day dawning from this side–If I see 5:45 AM, I’m always looking at it from the other side, from the staying up all night side.  It’s a bit odd being awake right now.

I’m not entirely certain why I woke up.  The rain is sort of loud.  But it’s pleasant.  It’s been sunny and hot lately, and I was due for some rain.  All in all, I’m not overly impressed with Tennessee’s weather so far.  I hate being hot.  I’m quite happy to wake up to the rain this morning.

The sound of rain always contents me.  I’ve always been a water person.  Whether hearing droplets fall from sky to earth or simply washing my hands, I always pay attention to it.  When I was younger, I always used to play with the hose out in the sunshine in Montana and watch the sparkling fat drops glitter like diamonds as the rays hit them over the backdrop of the Northern Rockies.  I’ve never seen the point behind buying diamond rings when you have water.

I wanted more.

Things never work out the way you expect them to.  I certainly didn’t expect to wake up so early this morning.  I was exhausted when I went to bed at 12:30 AM, mainly because I rarely make it to bed before 1 or 2 on weeknights, and around 3 – 4 on weekends, if not later.  Night owls are always condemned to less sleep than their daywalking counterparts–I’ve become accustomed, if not resigned, to that fact.

Waking up to the rain is pleasant, however.  It made me want to write.  Pretty soon, I wil have to get up and go to work, but for now I’m here.  My bed is that perfect warm, the cool outside air and the breeze from the fan have placed me into a coccoon of gentle morning bliss here sandwiched between my nest of pillows and my down comforter.  There are worse ways to wake up.

How do you ask for what you want if asking comes at the possible expense of losing it?  How do you know what you want, even?

I hate playing games.  There is always this balance game, this highwire act that women and men play together when they are unsure where they stand.  Are they on the platform, safe?  Or are they perched precariously on the edge of a line, suspended over nothing with no net to catch them if they fall?  I kind of feel like the latter.

It’s self-preservation at its best.  Don’t put yourself out there.  You’ll get slapped against the pavement, dropped from the heights of your hopes and/or expectations.

I was told last night by a good friend that I am too cynical.  Am I?  She was being fatalistic to an extreme, and I’ve never done well when people tell me things will work out if they are meant to be.  I think that’s a cop out answer because people don’t want to admit that things rarely work out.  Meant to be.  I see more sense in the thought that relationships are the Elephant Dance.

This is a concept that I came up with at a songwriters’ group here in Nashville a few months back.  Someone threw out the title “The Elephant Dance,” and the songwriter there, Kirsti Manning, asked us what that song would be about.  Some people thought literal.  I thought about couples.

We meet.  We either click or don’t.  You’re either attracted to someone or you’re not.  Sometimes there’s enough there to make you at least curious.  More rarely, there’s an instant zing, and within days or hours you find yourself plunked directly into a new life.  But then comes the problem.  People are terrified of getting hurt.  Because all of us have a lot of pain that we carry around with us like we are some sort of pachyderm.  Two people trying to interact with all that baggage is like an elephant dance.

How do we do it?  Put out your trunk, poke at them a little bit.  If their trunk meets yours, you might move a little closer to them.  If they slap it away or stomp on it, you run away.

I’m the last person who could explain why sometimes it works.  Why two people meet and click and bam, find themselves drawn to one another.  That lil spark.  Most people seem to go about their lives–this is my thought based on interactions with friends, etc.–content without that spark.  They find the vaguely curious and pat them with their trunk until the other elephant pats them back.  Then they try to be together.  Those usually don’t work.  In fact, they have a tendency to fall apart rather spectacularly.

It’s the inexplicable connections that have the most potential.  But they are scary as hell, and more often than not are met with remarkable obstacles and barriers, so people just let them go.  With risk comes the possibility for great gain, but when do you decide how worth it is?

I sure as hell don’t know.  It’s a gamble that could pay off, but dancing with elephants is a good way to be trampled.

The last time it happened to me, I ended up…well.  Heartbroken.  In the meantime between then and now, I’ve tried the other way.  Some spluttering miniscule spark that both people try to fan because they’re just so damn lonely, even when their elephants can barely fit in the same room with one another.  The Elephant Dance has caused my world to be wrecked–two giant pachyderms can cause a hell of a lot of destruction when they’re not careful.

So when you do find a spark that doesn’t seem to splutter but grows itself larger, that feeds even on distance and time and blossoms into a warm blaze when given even half a chance, what do you do?  First of all, you better hope it’s mutual.  That’s the scariest part…but if it is, then what?  Because those ones have mandatory roadblocks, and sometimes the price is just too high.  Even if you can see some of their baggage and have some idea what you’ll have to dance with, even if you saw it and want nothing more than to help heal it, to fix it, to remove that haunted look and tone–even then, they might not want you to.

This is a “what now?” sort of week.  A lot of things from the past few months came to fruition in a variety of different ways.  But even though I’ve resolved some if-onlies and watched hard work pay off in huge and historic proportions, I’m now left sitting and writing at 6:20 on a Friday morning, listening to a harmony of rain in key with some truly great music, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now.

There are a lot of options, and none of them seem safe.

I think I will write that song after all.